Log in / Register



Monthly Archives:

Recent Comments:No recent comment found.
Spooky Halloween book series

All The Dead Are Here - Pete Bevan's zombie tales collection

Popular Tags:

WARNING: Stories on this site may contain mature language and situations, and may be inappropriate for readers under the age of 18.

THE WOOD By Barrett Shumaker
August 7, 2012  Short stories   Tags:   

Jenny stumbled blindly in the dark forest. Impenetrable blackness surrounded her, engulfing her in a sightless abyss. Not even the scant glow of her tiny campfire was visible anymore. The faintest of shapes eluded her direct vision, dancing instead as obscure forms at the periphery. She stared blankly into the night, trying to hold her eyes still and discern the objects that moved within it.

Her muscles screamed for her to run, but she didn’t know where.

Disembodied sounds leapt at her from the ink-like blackness.

She had escaped them, but just barely. Jenny wore nothing but a thin t-shirt and panties; her small knife tucked into the elastic band. They surrounded her now, hidden in the dark, eking closer with every gasp, every squeak of fear that escaped her. Snapping twigs and clacking jaws, their proximity unknown, taunted her rapidly fraying nerves. The stink of decay assaulted her at every turn, wafting over her carried on passing breezes.

The sounds of chattering teeth were all around her. Jenny gasped as a hairy body brushed past her thigh. Panicked, she grabbed for it; snatching desperately at a ghost of fur, finding nothing but a gust of wind marking its passage. She wanted to call him to her, hold him tightly as she had so many times before when fear threatened to steal her sanity. But she couldn’t. It had already stolen her voice.

Rusty circled her in the dark. Darting into the abyss, growling at the unseen dangers it held and suddenly reappearing at her side, pressing against her legs for a moment, as if to reassure the frightened girl that he would not abandon her.

Jenny prayed he would find a way out. But she knew the truth already; that if there was one, he would have found it already.

Then he began to bark.

The barrel-chested beasts’ bellows shattered the still night like a cannon.  Jenny shrieked at the sudden burst of noise, throwing her arms over her head in fearful anticipation.

Rusty’s barks echoed off of an unseen wall in the darkness; a wall that was closing in on her; a wall of the dead.

She started when Rusty bumped into her and resumed barking, his warm pelt pressing into her thigh. Jenny winced at the pressure the sound exerted on her ears. A sharp, loud belt of a bark, like an ocean wave slapping into a waders unsuspecting back, nearly crushing them to their knees.  Weeping silently, she stared at her feet and watched the dog-shaped form dart from her peripheral vision. The mottled grey and black shape sprang silently away, out into the darkness. She followed blindly behind it.

Her feet floundered clumsily in the moonless black. She expected to find solid purchase beneath them and, coming up short, was jarred into a knee-locking stop. Jenny pitched forward, flailingher arms for balance. She stumbled, her right knee striking her in the chest as she fought falling on her face.

Then she lost him.

Jenny froze.

Twigs snapped to her left. Behind her, leaves rustled under uncoordinated feet. And all around was the clacking of hungry jaws.

They could see her. She knew it. And she was blind to them. Jenny sobbed, helpless to the hidden horrors dragging closer with every passing moment. She hugged herself tightly, and waited for the end to come.

Somewhere in the dark Rusty barked. Jenny pivoted on the sound. Jerkily turning left, Jenny ran for the noise. The bark was followed by another and another, then snarling.

They had him.

She recognized the sounds of Rusty attacking. The throaty hackling and yipping bark he gave when he caught prey. Jenny thought of the rabbits she’d seen him snatch from the ground, shaking them like rag dolls as they screamed, snapping their necks or breaking their backs. Their deaths were quick but horrific to witness. She thought of dead rabbits and Rusty’s violent head shakes as she charged toward his snarls.

Jenny felt the darkness between them growing smaller, the distance shrinking as she ran. Suddenly the smell of rot assaulted her. The clumsy thuds of her footfalls echoed back to her from theunseen wall. She pointed her shoulder, tucked her head and charged.

Rusty yelped to her left. She rushed past him and into a body.

They fell together, her landing atop it. Cold, rot slicked flesh slapped against Jenny’s face as she thrust her hands down beneath her and pushed herself up. Her fingers dug into wet, slippery things that yielded beneath them, slurping and sopping as she pulled her hands away, sticky. Cold, waxy hands clawed at her arms and hair. Something fell against her back, sliding down to lay across her legs. Rusty snarled and yelped in the darkness nearby.

A clammy hand grabbed Jenny’s throat and pulled her down toward the thing beneath her. She blindly thrust her hand out where she guessed its head must be and planted her palm on a nose. She pressed hard against it, keeping it at bay as the teeth just beneath it clacked hungrily at her wrist. The thing across her legs turned over. An elbow slammed painfully into Jenny’s ribs. An arm slapped across her back, its bony fingers latching onto her shoulder.

Rusty screamed.

Jenny had never heard a dog scream. She didn’t know they could. Her fear and will to live crystallized in that frightful moment. She threw her body back, screaming in anger, and shook the arm offof her shoulder. She shoved down on the thing beneath her as hard as she could, knocking the hand from her throat and pushed herself to her knees. She rolled to her right, her back slapping against the cool earth and kicked the thing from her legs. Jenny scrambled to her feet and ran blindly into the night.

She struck something hard, immobile, and fell to her knees, her hands dragging across rough tree bark. The world rolled beneath her, spinning as flashes of light danced in her eyes. Again, the stink of rot assaulted her and another body fell against her from the left, pinning her to the trees trunk. She tucked her ear to her shoulder just as the dead things head butted against hers. She grabbed it and shoved it back, jerking herself free. Jenny felt it brush past her face, grimacing at the sickening thud it made as it struck the trunk. She pushed away from the tree, its bark crunching beneath her fingers when the dead things arm wrapped around her neck. She braced her hand in its armpit. Her hand sank into rancid flesh that slipped free of the bone beneath it. A sheet of flesh came loose, flopping over her forearm like a wet towel. She flung it away and grabbed again, her fingers finding purchase in a bundle of ribs and pushed the thing away. Cold, slimy flesh slipped across her neck,coating her in its rancid stink. Bony fingers raked along her jaw as the dead thing fell to the ground beside her. Rusty hackled and barked in the darkness. Shrill screams of pain were laced with rage filled growls and guttural yelps.

Jenny steadied herself to stand and touched something hard and cold. Something attached to the hip of the thing next to her. Angular. Rough. Metal.

A gun.

She explored it hastily with her fingertips, sliding them over plastic and metal, finally finding the grip. The sounds of Rusty’s struggle intensified her desperation.

Jenny took the grip in both hands and pulled. The gun lifted up, but remained in its holster. She felt the belt it was fastened to tear into the weakened flesh of the dead things abdomen. She pulled again, rising to her knees and on a third pull, rose to her feet. The gun would not come free. She tugged with one hand and felt for a release with the other as the thing beneath her grabbed at her legs. She pushed at the guns holster with her fingers, probing the edges of it until something snapped and the gun slid free. Jenny leapt forward, trying to jump over the corpse beneath her and was caught short by its flailing arms. Her left knee landed in its chest, her right foot somewhere near its head. She pushed forward, kicking away with her left leg and was free of it. The thing caught her right foot and she fell, landing on her face. She pushed up, grunting in aggravation and kicked free, losing her shoe.

Jenny stumbled forward, drained from the fight and unsure if she could survive another. Lost, disoriented, harrowed by the screams of Rusty; Jenny wanted to run. She wanted to get away from everything; be safe. She couldn’t risk running in the dark again, risk running onto a tree and knock herself out, or into the waiting arms of the dead.

“Rusty!” Jenny screamed, taking aim into the night, into the direction of his snarls. “Rusty, come!” She squeezed the trigger and with a deafening boom the gun nearly leapt from her small hands.

The muzzle flash illuminated the horrors stalking her for an instant. Their movements frozen on her retinas like a flashbulb, only to plunge her into the disorientating blackness a second later.Some were naked, others clothed in tattered shreds of gore soaked fabrics, but all were shambling toward her in the dark, their arms outstretched, hungrily clawing at the air. She could see nothing past a few feet. Jenny stepped back and aimed at the last place she thought the closest zombie was and fired.

Her shots were wide, striking anything and nothing. Jenny shouted for Rusty again and again. Each shout followed by a gunshot. The dead eeked closer with the stuttered motion of a poorly drawn flip-book cartoon.

Rusty’s cries barely rose above the ringing in her ears from each gunshot. Jenny didn’t know how many bullets were left. She wanted him to come, but didn’t know if he could. She didn’t know if the sounds he made now were those of fight or lingering death. Nightmare images of Rusty laying in the dark as the dead settled down to feast flooded her mind.

There was nothing left for her now but escape.

On the last shot she dared to take, Jenny bolted blindly for a gap in the advancing horde of dead. She ran into the unknown and prayed her death wouldn’t hurt.

She charged through the perceived gap and into a freefall as the Earth left her. Weightless in the void she fell for what seemed like an eternity before crashing to the leaf-littered ground with anankle jarring thud. Laying dazed on the ground, poked by rocks and sticks Jenny was just beginning to shake the cobwebs from her head when two thumps sounded nearby.

They were coming.

Jenny got shakily to her feet. Pain lanced through her ankle. Clutching the gun tightly to her chest, Jenny limped blindly into the night, weeping as the shrieks of her only friend echoed down from the tree canopy and the moonless sky above.


The dim glow of morning chased away the last vestiges of night. The black forest around her slowly took shape, and those shapes gained texture as the light slowly gathered. Birds called gaily in the treetops, oblivious to the previous nights events. Jenny sat on the forest floor, covered in rancid filth, mourning the loss of her friend. Her tears washed clean streaks down her dirt smeared cheeks.

Jenny sat beside a narrow stream, soaking her shoeless, bruised and bloody foot in the cold flowing water. Her thin white t-shirt and green panties were covered in rancid filth smattered with leaves and dirt. The dead had chased her from the campsite she had thrown together, costing her all of the supplies she had gathered over the months, including her clothes she had just washed and hung to dry beside the small fire. They had taken everything from her: her mom, her friends, her home, her life. And now; Rusty.

She felt the gun in her lap. It’s weight. It would be so easy. Just like in the movies. One shot and she could see her mom again; her friends, and Rusty. She could see them all, tell them how much she loved them, how she’d missed them. All she had to do was put it to her head and pull the trigger. No, that’s not right. They always use the mouth. In the mouth and point up. She turned the gun toward her and looked down the barrel. There were groves inside it. She didn’t know barrels had groves. She always thought it was like a smooth pipe. What were the groves for? What did the groves do?

Why did she care? You’re stalling, she thought. Just put it in your mouth and do it. A rustling in the brush across the stream caught her attention. They had caught up with her. She had to hurry. She had to do it now or risk being one of them.

It pressed thought the brush, parting the greenery as it came. Rot slicked sides eased its passage through the bramble and tall grass, imparting a sheen of oily putrescence on the broad green reeds. Jenny put the gun barrel in her mouth and fumbled pulling back the hammer as the brush birthed the rancid thing out into the stream.

He had come back for her.

Jenny sobbed as he limped through the ankle deep water on three legs, glistening with gore.

The gun fell from her mouth. She held her arms out, beckoning him closer as her grief washed away. He came to her, wearily waging his tail. Jenny hugged him tightly and immediately let him go,retching violently. “Good God you stink!” she cried waving her arms in the air trying to fling the stench from herself. Rusty limped away and lapped loudly from the stream, leaving a Rusty shaped smear of rot on Jenny’s chest and arms. She scrambled for the water to wash the gore from her. Once satisfied she splashed handfulls on him, raking it down his coat.

Rusty was missing patches of fur. Thick layers of salt and pepper hair dipped into thin patches of undercoat and even bare skin. She snickered at how pale he was under all that fur. “They really did a number on you huh? It’s a good thing you’re fuzzy.” Rusty sat patiently as she bathed him in the cold clear water, massaging it into his coat and raking it back out with the blade of her hand. She inspected the paw he kept lifting, obviously too painful to bare weight on. No breaks, no bites, no scratches she could see; twisted more than likely. Rusty jerked the poor pitiful paw away from her inquisitive fingers and tentative mashes. “Yeah, they got me too. See?” she said offering her own foot for his inspection. He sniffed her injured limb with the briefest of interest before looking away, his mind obviously set in other dog-ly duties. “Fine then!” Jenny pouted in mock offense, “See if I ever show you one of my war wounds again!”

“I missed you,” she cooed taking his face in her hands. Rusty whined and pulled away. It was then that she noticed his muzzle and how swollen it had become.  “Oh, you hurt your nose again.” She reached out and gingerly touched the swollen tissues, feeling the heat emanating from them and imagined him fighting valiantly. Biting at the dead as they tried to grab him and hold him down. He satstoically beside her as she grimaced, patting his matted, and still fairly odorous, drying fur. Jenny began to recant the story of her night in the dark forest, alone and afraid to him. Her grief at the thought of losing him, even the shameful moment when she contemplated suicide.

Rusty leaned out, straightening his neck, and sniffed at Jenny’s face. Then, with a half gag, burped in her face. He licked sourly at the roof of his mouth, shaking his head as Jenny recoiled in disgust.

“Oh my God Rusty, what did you eat?” she said waving the horrid stink from her nose. Almost as soon as she asked it, her mind was flooded with ghastly possibilities. “Oh my God! Don’t tell me! Don’t tell me!”

Jenny gagged and shook her own head, trying to dislodge the nauseating images from her mind while Rusty idly chewed at a clump of grass beside the stream.

Jenny stood shakily, gently easing weight onto her injured foot, wincing as the pain increased to a plateau. She was relieved to find it tolerable enough to walk on and after a few test staggers patted her bare thigh. “Come on, buddy,” she called, looking back at Rusty, “let’s go.”

Rusty stepped into the stream and lapped loudly at the clear flowing water before limping back to her side.  “Keep an eye out for ’jagulars,’ Rusty,” Jenny said with a grimace as she staggeredslowly along the stream bank. “They live up in the trees and call ‘halloo’ and when you look up they drop on you.” Rusty plodded along beside her, hacking and stopping briefly to graze on sparse patches of grass while Jenny told him all about a little stuffed bear and his fantastical friends.



Barrett Shumaker lives in Memphis, TN with his wife and two young sons. When he isn’t writing, or thinking about writing, he’s tweeting or attempting to explore other social media. Barrett has been published online at talesofworldwarZ werewolfpage and in print at Dark Moon Books: Special Zombie Edition. Visit him at www.barrettshumaker.com


  1. great, I love rusty and jenny, I’ve even read the first story to my 10 yr old son.

    Comment by greg wagner on August 7, 2012 @ 9:17 pm

  2. I’ve no fingernails left. Well done.

    Comment by JohnT on August 8, 2012 @ 1:40 am

  3. Exciting and full of suspense, claustrophobic fear and in darkness no less.

    Comment by bong on August 8, 2012 @ 9:08 am

  4. Did I miss something? Why is she running around the woods in just her underwear?

    Comment by Josh on August 9, 2012 @ 4:01 am

  5. Oh man did this need a proofing. I’ve noticed a bunch of places where I left words suck together. Thanks everyone for the comments. Josh, near the end there’s a sentence that says the dead chased her off of her campsite. In my mind, Jenny had washed her clothing and it was drying when the dead wandered into her campsite. Greg, that’s dedication! Thanks and wow! I’m hoping it was the Rusty story you read him. I don’t know i would want either of my kids reading these stories, because then I’d have to explain some things. 🙂

    Comment by bshumakr on August 9, 2012 @ 6:54 am

  6. Was really worried that this was the end of Rusty, even had to stop in the middle and spend some time with my own dog. Keep up the good work.

    Comment by Doc on August 10, 2012 @ 11:37 am

  7. I have a cat, and i dont think that my cat could do that for me.

    Comment by ralph on August 12, 2012 @ 4:59 am

  8. I was worried it was the end of Rusty too. I was prepared to be very upset. I love the stories with him and Jenny. Your stories leave you on the edge of your seat. I love them!

    Comment by Linda on August 13, 2012 @ 1:07 pm

  9. Nicely done.

    Comment by Terry on August 15, 2012 @ 4:29 pm

  10. Nice vivid images. This one had me on the edge of my seat.

    Comment by rjspears on August 26, 2012 @ 6:05 am

RSS feed for comments on this post.

Sorry, the comment form is closed at this time.